A couple of weekends ago, I left the FP rocket behind and attended the MCM Expo at ExCel as a prospect of the UK Garrison and their alter-geeko, Reel-Icons.
And it nearly blew my mind.
Thirty thousand – thirty thousand! – CosPlayers, dressed in everything from luminous orange fur to full Devil May Cry regalia, armed with weapons of latex, cardboard and spray-paint, all high as kites on their own explosive energy.
The weekend directly following the affable, family-atmosphere of NewCon 4, Expo’s colossal attendance and critical mass has thrown my previous post into sharp relief.
These kids are the future.
From eight- and ten-year olds through all ranges of teen into early-twenty-somethings, they’ve embraced the expansion of Japanese culture into Western fantasy and made it their own. They have no need of Real Ale; they’re drunk on Free Hugs and an overdose of Yaoi. Lured by the prospect of the first-ever CosPlay Masquerade Ball, they aren’t passively reading books – they’re realising their part in a vast, interactive fantastical community.
There was a smattering of non-CosPlayers – there for signings and to meet the very sharp and funny Michael Hogan, aka Saul Tigh – but they seemed a tiny percentage, lost in the frenzied game-playing, Pikachu-cuddling mass. And perhaps it illustrates the point: these kids aren’t only moving away from the humble book, they’re leaving behind the comic and the television as well.
Why read it, why watch it – when you can live it? When thousands of friends uphold your knowledge that you are Cloud Strife?
And leads into a final comment: a question mark.
On the Saturday night, there was an incident in the ExCel car park. Nothing to do with the MCM Expo, it was related to a concurrent event. On the Sunday, Security had erected a bag-scanner in the front entrance – and were x-raying all luggage brought in by the attendees of the event in question. Massively ironic, when you consider the ludicrous mock-weaponry flaunted only meters away.
The juxtaposition of the two iconised the sharp contrast between fantasy and reality – and brought me up short at the fine wire between escapism and obsession. We all need release – read, write, watch, dress up, play games – it’s necessary and it’s human.
But as technology swells to encompass our imaginations and the fantasy becomes all-consuming, we need to remember something.
This world is the real one.